Lunch Bucket Paradise: A True-Life Novel

Lunch Bucket Paradise: A True-Life Novel
Available as an e-book only.

By Fred Setterberg

For those of us living in an age of high unemployment, foreclosures, and diminished expectations, suburban life in 1960s California seems like a distant dream. Working-class men, their fingers worn by honest labor, witnessed the invention of comforts designed to take the hurt off with a beer after a long day: frozen food, washer/dryer combos, and a square of unfenced grass called a lawn. Their sons dragged the perfumed streets, discovering James Brown and trying their damnedest to work less than their fathers and avoid the draft. Mothers experimented with neon-yellow cake mix and fresh asparagus year-round. It was a time even the new home movie camera couldn’t capture: the silent hope of better things to come and the fleeting good fortune of mid-century.

With the sharp wit of a master storyteller, Fred Setterberg chronicles his childhood in the postwar Eden of Jefferson Manor, a blue-collar suburb of Oakland. Like a Bay Area Garrison Keillor or Bill Bryson, Setterberg reveals the quirks of his family and neighbors with nuance and care. Each chapter propels him toward adulthood while poignantly exploring class, masculinity, and modern life amidst the intoxicating abundance of a new California. In advance of this book’s publication, sections of Lunch Bucket Paradise have won prizes from The Florida ReviewLiteral Latte, and Solstice Literary Magazine.

Fred’s coming-of-age casts a bittersweet pall on today’s world in light of the good life far out of reach for working-class families today. Reading his words, we realize the true meaning of the phrase “lunch bucket paradise”: it symbolizes an era of prosperity for blue-collar Americans that may never come again.


"This darkly humorous and affectionate but utterly unsentimental, look at the world of the 'Greatest Generation' recreates a time as lost to us today as our own youth. Fred Setterberg is a storyteller with incisive talent and a large heart." John Raeside, founding editor of Oakland's East Bay Express
"In electric prose, Lunch Bucket Paradise gives us such a sure, detailed sense of what it was to grow up in the late fifties and early sixties--from the music to the name brands to the carbon-copy houses--that we live and breathe the suburban air." Judith Kitchen, author of The House on Eccles Road
"This is a growing-up story, a family story, and an American story, part banishment from Eden, part escape: a wonderful, wonderful read." Mark Greenside, author of I'll Never Be French and I Saw a Man Hit His Wife
"...a rare find, a book that in so many scenes and shades of story has a eerie prescience for the future of California, even as Fred Setterberg helps us to remember the state's time of innocence and boom.... He's funny, wry, and watchtful - a great tour guide to his own place." Susan Straight, author of Take One Candle Light a Room
"The prose is deliciously generous, precise, and evocative. The voice is wonderful, too, and it pulls the reader deeply into organic, metaphorical territory that gracefully illuminates, among other things, the psychic minefield the American family can be. I love this story!" Andre Dubus III, House of Sand and Fog
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About the Author

Fred Setterberg

Fred Setterberg

Fred Setterberg is the coauthor, with Lonny Shavelson, of Toxic NationUnder the Dragon: California’s New Culture, and five other books, including the award-winning The Roads Taken: Travels Through America’s Literary Landscapes. He has been a staff writer for the East Bay Express and editor of Travelers’ Tales America, and has written for the New York TimesThe Nation, and scores of other national and regional magazines. He lives in Oakland, California. Visit his website at

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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